ARABIAN GULF – UK Royal Navy and U.S. Navy forces participated in a mine countermeasures (MCM) interoperability exercise in the Arabian Gulf Sept. 9-17.
U.S. Navy mine countermeasures ships (MCM) operated alongside mine countermeasures vessels (MCMV) from the Royal Navy in order to enhance interoperability, information sharing and shared tactics and procedures between the two navies.
The exercise consisted of realistic mine hunting simulations where participating units practiced detecting and classifying training aids shaped like mines while following standardized mine hunting procedures.
“We regularly train alongside regional and coalition partners to practice defending against the credible threat that mines pose to shipping,” said Capt. Jeffrey Morganthaler, Commodore of Commander, Task Force 52. “This exercise is an excellent example of the strong integration and cooperation we enjoy with our Royal Navy counterparts in strengthening that defensive, mine countermeasure capability.”
Participating U.S. ships included the mine countermeasures ships USS Dextrous (MCM 13) and USS Sentry (MCM 3). In addition, explosive ordinance disposal technicians, MK VI patrol boats and MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters assigned to Commander, Task Force (CTF) 52, CTF 53 and CTF 56 participated.
Royal Navy participating ships included mine countermeasures vessels HMS Chiddingfold (M37), HMS Penzance (M106) and landing dock ship RFA Cardigan Bay (L3009).
“The mine countermeasure mission is inherently challenging, especially in the extreme environmental conditions we experience in this region,” said UK Royal Navy Capt. Donald Crosbie, Deputy Commander, CTF 52. “However by training together as we could expect to operate, we can integrate equipment and cross-pollinate best practices such that we form an extraordinarily capable combined MCM force.”
In addition to simulating the hunting and detection of different types of mines, the combined force practiced defending itself from the threat of small boat attacks.
While both U.S. and Royal Navy forces integrate regularly, including Royal Navy officers filling important positions in the CTF 52 staff, this exercise demonstrated their ability to improve upon existing tactical proficiencies.
“The permanent UK and U.S. counter mine capability in these vital strategic chokepoints represents our joint commitment to maintaining maritime security in the region,” said Commodore Dean Bassett, UK Maritime Component Commander (UKMCC). “The ability for the Royal Navy and U.S. Navy to conduct interoperability exercises together is essential to ensure that freedom of navigation is maintained.”
CTF 52, 53, and 56 regularly operate alongside UK Royal Navy forces in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations (AOO) in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region.
The U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The expanse is comprised of 20 countries and includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.